My Reaction to the Paris Attacks

I feel like I need to write a reaction to some comments I have been reading following the devastating terrorist attack in Paris at the weekend.

Not the attack itself; my reaction to that is fairly straightforward.

I just seem to have read so much vitriol, hate, self-righteousness and misplaced judgement, that I want to add my opinion, for whatever reason.

The “close the borders” anti-Islam brigade is one thing. I can ignore them. They’re the same Britain First-sharing pricks I avoid as a matter of routine.

My response is really to people, who seem to have either a sense of real indignation, or just a sense of something more righteous and judgmental, who have criticised people like me, for having a response to the Paris attacks, by calling us out for NOT having a response to similar attacks in Beirut and the Lebanon and Syria and Baghdad. Those who call the rest of us “sheeple” rather than “people” because we are allegedly “following the crowd” in our responses. Those who say “Don’t pray for Paris, pray for the world” and, more particularly, those who are angry with us and ask “why do you care about Paris and not the other places”?

It annoys me, because the answer is fairly obvious. It annoys me, because it feels like the accusations are being levied when it is unimportant to do so. It annoys me, because it feels like it’s pushing an agenda, or – even worse – the “accuser” has a sense of superiority over the rest of us. As though their “grief” or response is somehow better than ours, somehow more thought-out and more important, because they’re not just focusing on the West and are truly a citizen of the world. And those of us who changed our Facebook profile pictures to the colours of the Tricolore, are just imbeciles who can’t think for ourselves.

it has made me think a lot, primarily because I agree with the sentiment behind their thoughts, and I questioned myself on whether or not I was being a hypocrite. But I’m not, and I want to defend myself and others who think the way I think about this.

There have been atrocities in Beirut and the Lebanon and Syria and Baghdad for time immemorial. I remember my Dad talking to me about Beirut when I was a child, in the late 70s. I’ve grown up watching images on TV of a war-torn Iraq and a bombed Syria.

Just because this is historical and continuous DOES NOT MAKE IT OK. I am not implying that. That’s an entirely separate issue.

My point is that, tragically, news of atrocities in war-torn areas does not make us surprised. It makes us angry and it makes us fear and it makes us despair, but it is not an unusual enough event for us to be surprised and reactionary about each event. And BECAUSE of this (and I am not supporting nor condoning this) these events are not widely reported on in the media.

Paris is different. Paris is in France: our neighbour across the Channel. Paris is a tourist destination and one of the most visited cities in the world. it is a holiday hotspot. It houses landmarks that people want to visit, and is host to one of the world’s most major theme parks. People in Paris are not armed; they are not walking the streets at night watching out for attacks; there is no militia on the streets; children do not routinely carry weapons. Aside from the Charlie Hebdoe attacks earlier on this year, Paris does not have a history of violent conflict. So, of course, this tragic, dreadful event makes us react the way we reacted.

On a personal note, I have been to Paris many times, and plan to go more times. I have not been to Iraq or Syria or any of the other countries cited in these levied accusations. I was in Paris just 6 months ago with my 6 year old son, wandering around the landmarks, going up the Eiffel Tower, eating in Cafes and restaurants – we walked past the Bataclan nightclub.

My husband proposed to me in Paris 18 years ago. It is a city I know and love, and it is close enough to home to feel as though it could have been me or someone I love.

None of this makes the murders and atrocities in Baghdad and Syria and Beirut OK. Of course it doesn’t. Life is not simple, and humans can process more than one piece of information. But this is why I changed my profile picture to the Tricolore for the day. This is why it filled me with shock and despair. This is why the school I work in held a two minute silence today for the victims of the attacks. Not because Parisian life is more important than Iraqi life, but because reactions to these things are personal and borne from individual knowledge.

I read the news, and I have an awareness of what goes on around the world. I have had personal reactions to atrocities all over the place, but if you ask me why I cared about Paris, then the answer is above. This doesn’t make me a sheep or an ignoramus. It makes me a human.